POEMS Syndrome

National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

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It is possible that the main title of the report POEMS Syndrome is not the name you expected.

Disorder Subdivisions

  • None

General Discussion


POEMS syndrome is an extremely rare multisystem disorder. POEMS is an acronym that stands for (P)olyneuropathy, disease affecting many nerves; (O)rganomegaly, abnormal enlargement of an organ; (E)ndocrinopathy, disease affecting certain hormone-producing glands that help to regulate sexual function, and certain metabolic functions; (M)onoclonal gammopathy or M proteins; and (S)kin abnormalities. Common symptoms include progressive weakness of the nerves in the legs and arms, an abnormally enlarged liver and/or spleen (hepatosplenomegaly), enlarged lymph nodes, abnormally darkening of the skin (hyperpigmentation), thickening of the skin and excessive hair growth (hypertrichosis). Endocrine abnormalities such as failure of the ovaries and testes (gonads) to function properly (primary gonadal failure) and diabetes mellitus may be present. Specific endocrine abnormalities associated with POEMS syndrome vary from case to case. Other important features of the disease include swelling around the optic nerve (papilledema), abnormal fluid retention, which may occur in the ankles (edema), the abdominal cavity (ascites), or around the lungs (pleural effusions), painless scars on bone x-ray (osteosclerosis), and an elevated platelet count (a blood cell responsible for clotting). Some patients may also have abnormalities in the lung function tests, which may not be noticed because of their inability to walk well due to their neuropathy.


POEMS syndrome is associated with a group of disorders known as monoclonal gammopathies or plasma cell dyscrasias. These disorders are characterized the uncontrolled growth of a single clone (monoclonal) of plasma cells, which results in the abnormal accumulation of M-proteins (also known as immunoglobulins) in the blood. Immunoglobulins in health fight infection. However, the specific role M-proteins play and the exact cause of POEMS syndrome is unknown. Research would suggest that a chemical called VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) plays an important role in this disease.

Supporting Organizations

American Autoimmune & Related Diseases

22100 Gratiot Ave.
Eastpointe, MI 48021
Tel: (586)776-3900
Fax: (586)776-3903
Tel: (800)598-4668
Email: aarda@aarda.org
Website: http://www.aarda.org/

AutoImmunity Community

Website: https://www.facebook.com/autoimmunityforum

Center for Peripheral Neuropathy

University of Chicago
5841 South Maryland Ave, MC 2030
Chicago, IL 60637
Tel: (773)702-5659
Fax: (773)702-5577
Website: http://peripheralneuropathycenter.uchicago.edu/

Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center

PO Box 8126
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8126
Tel: (301)251-4925
Fax: (301)251-4911
Tel: (888)205-2311
Website: http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/GARD/

NIH/Child Health and Human Development - Section on Endocrinology and Genetics

Bldg 31, Room 2A32, MSC 2425
31 Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892-2425
Tel: (301)402-1998
Fax: (301)402-2984
Email: stratakc@exchange.nih.gov
Website: http://segen.nichd.nih.gov/index.html

NIH/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Information Clearinghouse
One AMS Circle
Bethesda, MD 20892-3675
Tel: (301)495-4484
Fax: (301)718-6366
Tel: (877)226-4267
Email: NIAMSinfo@mail.nih.gov
Website: http://www.niams.nih.gov/

NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824
Tel: (301)496-5751
Fax: (301)402-2186
Tel: (800)352-9424
Website: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/

Neuropathy Association

60 East 42nd Street
Suite 942
New York, NY 10165
Tel: (212)692-0662
Fax: (212)692-0668
Email: info@neuropathy.org
Website: http://www.neuropathy.org

For a Complete Report

This is an abstract of a report from the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). For a full-text version of this report, go to www.rarediseases.org and click on Rare Disease Database under "Rare Disease Information".

The information provided in this report is not intended for diagnostic purposes. It is provided for informational purposes only.

It is possible that the title of this topic is not the name you selected. Please check the Synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and Disorder Subdivision(s) covered by this report.

This disease entry is based upon medical information available through the date at the end of the topic. Since NORD's resources are limited, it is not possible to keep every entry in the Rare Disease Database completely current and accurate. Please check with the agencies listed in the Resources section for the most current information about this disorder.

Last Updated:  9/7/2012
Copyright  2012 National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.